Government playing political football with public servants' pay

Government playing political football with public servants' pay

The government will not be able to recruit or retain the workforce it needs to meet the challenges facing the UK unless it changes its approach to public sector pay and reward.

Man with calculator

Prospect is calling for an independent review of pay and for the 1% pay cap to be lifted.

Deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “Our members have seen unprecedented downward pressure on their pay and a decline in living standards in real terms since 2010.

“The current approach to pay and reward in the civil service and the wider public sector is unsustainable if we are to recruit, retain and motivate a workforce to meet the challenges facing the UK.”

Pay levels for managers, professionals and specialists lag significantly behind the private sector – a situation which will only worsen if current trends continue.

“Pay in the private sector is increasing at more than twice the rate of pay in the public sector. The government points to the private sector as an example of best practice. But no private sector organisation would say that freezing pay for years and capping increases at 1% until 2020 is the route to corporate success,” said Graham.

A number of departments are already struggling to fill vacancies and there is an over-reliance on expensive contractors and consultants.

The most recent civil service people survey found that:

  • a quarter of respondents wanted to leave their jobs either immediately or within the next year
  • three quarters believed they would be better rewarded for undertaking similar roles elsewhere
  • one third were struggling to achieve an acceptable work life balance.

“Public servants are suffering because their pay being treated as a blunt instrument of macro-economic policy and a political football.

“Now is the time for an evidence-led approach to ensure that the UK can recruit, retain and motivate the skilled workforce it needs; that is why we are calling for an independent pay review,” concluded Graham.

Prospect produced a briefing on pay in the civil service in November 2016, but further increases in inflation seem likely to make the position even worse.

In December 2016, the Office for Budget Responsibility increased its RPI forecast to 3.2% in 2017. But the latest round up of independent forecasts published by the Treasury shows average expectations now at 3.6% for 2017.